In January 2018, Trump reluctantly signed the waivers which maintained the suspension of sanctions on Iran. This signature has not allowed for much time to relax as the waiver has to be resigned by midnight, on 12 May. Trump, always a harsh critic of Obama’s most important diplomatic triumph, threatened Iran by claiming he would not sign again unless the US Congress and European allies ‘fixed the deal’.
Two weeks and counting the deal is under pressure and Iran’s future is extremely uncertain. The JCPOA was an agreement signed in July 2015 by the US, China, Russia, Britain, France, Germany and the EU to lift the sanctions imposed on Iran with the condition they halted their nuclear program. Iran, after over a decade of negotiations, finally agreed to the terms because international sanctions had led to such isolation of Iran’s economy. This led to a dramatic change in Iran’s relations with the wider world; for the UK the JCPOA has resulted in full diplomatic relations being restored. Trade between the two countries has doubled year on year since 2015.
Trump’s failure to sign the agreement next week does not necessarily mean US sanctions will snap back onto Iran. Congress will have sixty days to discuss and decide the extent to which sanctions would be reimposed. The positive position of the US’s allies on the JCPOA makes their reaction to a non-renewal unclear.
President Rouhani has suggested nuclear activity may recommence, warning the White House that; ‘if they do not live up to their commitments… the Iranian government will firmly react’. Iran articulated that they would develop, or even buy the necessary arms to protect themselves. Considering their involvement in Syria and Yemen this could be detrimental.
Macron has taken a hugely significant risk this week by proposing to Trump a new agreement dealing with Iran’s behaviour in the region and missile testing, even though these issues are unrelated to the JCPOA. Macron believes Iran deserves to have the ability to trade with the EU and the US until 2025, with the condition they do not develop nuclear arms.
Trump’s advisors ‘tried to advise the President that there are significant risks in the course he’d prefer to pursue’ with US defense secretary, Mattis, stating the President should sign the waiver as it’s in their best interest.
Iran has said it would refuse to accept any proposed changes from the deal despite Trump’s threat. President Rouhani declared: ‘the nuclear deal is the nuclear deal’. It is quite clear Iran will not accept a new negotiation but will remain in the JCPOA as long as their interests are safeguarded, creating a juxtaposition with Trump’s ideas.
Further ahead, there is a risk that Iran will become a global threat by regenerating its nuclear program. Trump will most likely have to threaten military action resulting in a domino effect and regional disaster. Therefore, the consequences of Trump pulling out of the deal would be detrimental not just to Iran but on a global scale, leading to higher uncertainty in the Middle East and globally.
Trump pulling out of the deal means US sanctions, at least to some extent, would be re-imposed on Iran. The big question will be how Europe and Iran will react.